Uganda Cranes & What Needs to Be Done

Uganda Cranes & What Needs to Be Done

By Arinaitwe Rugyendo

The Four-decade jinx has been resolved.

Uganda will be a contender for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy in Libreville-Gabon, come January 2017.

After 38 years trying and failing- but not failing to try- the national team, The Uganda Cranes, qualified for the continent’s premier tournament after whipping Comoros 1-0 at Namboole stadium, last Saturday!

Coach Micho Sredejovic’s boys were the better team; often creating better chances and having the tension parked audience at Namboole under their feet. It was a win well deserved and I congratulate these boys.

What all this means to a country struggling to shift into a middle-income status, is alot. Triumphs in sports often bring with them branding, tourism, foreign exchange, foreign direct investments, jobs, national fitness, national happiness and patriotic opportunities to nations. And if ruling political parties and those contending for power positioned themselves well in sport, the political dividends can be enormous!

That said, today I will speak very bluntly!

The Uganda Cranes did not win because of the Four Decade jinx. We had resigned to fate and sometimes, to football mathematics, witchcraft, mysticism and speculation!

The Uganda Cranes won because they wanted to make a statement to the whole country that they are very tired of the lack of visible political will in sports and the wanton neglect of not only sporting facilities, but also, of sportsmen and women in this nation!

The people of Uganda and their government have abandoned sports and left it to fend for itself. I have explained this point before in these pages and during the just concluded Uganda Premier League Awards, 2016. A casual scan of the former sportsmen and women who have fought hard for Uganda would show you how dead our country is. It would leave you wondering why none of them, not even the ones who went up to AFCON 1978, have ever deserved a single medal.

You would be shocked to discover that national sportsmen and women live miserable lives, have no proper remuneration and those who have long left the scene, have no pension, just like senior civil servants and politicians do.

If the current #Tulambule campaign to boost Uganda’s local tourism (never mind that no single sportsman has been included on the circuit except sexy artists), included a visit to the dilapidated sports grounds around the country (if any of them is left), you would be very pissed off.

A few months I have spent at the helm of the Uganda Premier League, I have learnt that Uganda has 56 sports federations. All these are entitled to just about 8-11 billion shillings annually from the Government of Uganda. The Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) alone, receives Shs. 4 million a year from this token allocation. This is why nobody should be shocked that Coach Micho has gone for over six months without pay. And if he has no pay, his players must be dying.

How can a beautiful game, that saw Hon. Janet Museveni yelling her heart out at Namboole, a game that united friends and foes in business and politics, a game that united rioters with a tear gas-wielding policemen and the military, and finally, a game that brought glory to a country after nearly 40 years in the doldrums, be so neglected like this?

The answer starts with you and me, and then, government! We must sort out the ideological questions in sports and the political will on the part of government. We must sort out planning, prioritization and implementation issues. We must pay for games and sponsor local clubs to nurture talent. We must all participate- the private sector, government and individuals.

The Ugandan parliament is awash with so many caucuses; mainly political, tribal and religious. Why not a national caucus on sports to discus this? Why focus your caucuses on narrow and very parochial interests? You hear of Banyankore, Baganda, Bakyooli caucuses, etc etc! What sort of leadership is this?

I shall return to this next Saturday!